Halloween Endurance Test: Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985)

The Howling is famous for updating the werewolf film. Back in the day, werewolf transformations were effected onscreen through time-lapse photography and pasting fur onto the actor’s face. Never convincing, the end result always ended up looking like Lon Chaney with fur pasted on his face. The eighties however, brought an advance to special effect technology: air bladders.

By placing a air bladder under layers of fake skin, one could create a (semi) realistic change to an actor’s musculature in realtime. An effect that was quite impressive at the time. The script was unusual too in that it updated the werewolf legend into modern times. Though it largely takes part in a secluded retreat, the film’s tone is straight seedy NYC of the early 80s. The film was dark, dirty, and depressing (involving, as it did, a story centered around sexual assault).

Sadly, it takes all of 10 minutes for the the werewolf from the original movie to bite it.

The Howling was so successful that a sequel was quickly made. Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf hoped lightning would strike twice by again changing the backdrop. Forests are out, XXX-rated Times Square is out, sunny Los Angeles is in! Needless to say, this film was no where near as successful as its predecessor.

(It is rumored that Howling II star Christopher Lee apologized for appearing in it to (director of the Howling) Joe Dante when they met when working on Gremlins II: the New Batch.)

I imagine they hoped Christopher Lee would lend the film a aura of respectability; imbuing the film with a bit of his Hammer films stateliness. Unfortunately, he opens the film with a Criswell-esque monologue about whorish werewolves while standing in front of a star-field! I hope he made sure to cash his check before appearing in this.

The looniness doesn’t end there, as brightness is the order of the day here. Werewolves attack in broad daylight, so that every crappy aspect of their crappier make-up job will be on full display. Plus everyone is wearing that irritating “new wave” look Hollywood used for all punk rockers in their movies/TV shows. The strange asymmetrical haircuts, skinny ties, and sunglasses with thin, angular lenses.

The world's first were-hobo! (Ferdinand Mayne)

Lee plays elder statesman Stefan, a werewolf hunter/expert. He teaches us that a.) some werewolves are immune to silver, but vulnerable to titanium(!), and b.) there’s a Queen Werewolf named Stirba (Sybil Danning) who’s causing all other werewolves to lose control. Stefan decides quite early on that he’s going to end the werewolf menace, thus casting the film’s main characters Jenny (Annie McEnroe) and Ben (Reb Brown) in a purely nominal position straight off.

(While Stefan’s clearly the knowledgable elder statesman, not all his ideas are winners. Such as his idea of having the characters stay in touch with each other via puppet show! That’s right, they communicate through a puppet show! Remember this important fact the next time your parents talk about life before cell phones…)

Stirba quickly becomes the focus of the film; regaining her youth during a backwards-Bathory sequence. Where a young maiden is bathed in blood, and then has her life-force drained out of her. Leaving nothing but a dried-out, skeletal husk. She also shoots electricity through her fingertips, dresses poorly, and howls so loud that it causes eyes to explode!

Other than that though, Stirba doesn’t do much to make her a menace. She just waits for Stefan in her Transylvanian castle, having sex with Vlad, her were-servant.

Stefan finally arrives, and we learn that he’s Stirba’s brother. They obvious have a very unhealthy relationship, as all he can think about is killing her, while she’s obsessed with being with him. Which is scary in a gross, incestuous way. They reunite, he stabs her with a titanium dagger, and she sets him aflame.

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